The Dirt on Dirt

Filed in Spring by on March 2, 2014 0 Comments

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to make preparations to get your garden ready for planting. And the single most important part of your garden is the soil. Sure, thought must be given to where to put your garden spot, to insure the plants get adequate sunshine and protection from the elements. But let’s face it, even the sunniest garden won’t produce well unless you give it a proper soil base.

what do I need to make my soil perform better?

Even the sunniest garden won’t produce well unless you give it a proper soil base.

So, you might ask, what do I need to make my soil perform better? If you have ever purchased soil, you may have noticed that every soil supplier has their own recipe. You may have heard different names given to dirt, like 3 way mix, two way, garden grower’s delight, or some other fancy name. The more you shop, the more decisions you are confronted with. So what is the difference, and what should you decide on?

First off, you need to understand how soil is made and distributed to the market. Soil suppliers typically have raw, unprocessed soil brought to their facility, usually coming from area construction sites. The top two feet or so of soil and vegetation on a job site is stripped from the property and discarded due to the fact that it is unusable for construction. The soil manufacturer will usually mix in some sort of organic material like compost, manure, or even sawdust. They may add sand as well, if the native soil has some clay in it. The mix is then processed with a machine that will separate the large rocks and sticks from the soil. It is then sold to you, the customer, for your garden.

Keeping in mind that all soils available are actually a mixture of different materials, how do you decide what is right for you? One of the most important criteria is the “texture” of a soil. When you pick some up in your hand, give it a good squeeze. Depending on moisture content, the soil should form a ball that will keep its shape when handled carefully, but will crumble easily with a little pressure. If it won’t form a ball, it may be too sandy for good root structure. Conversely, if the soil ball won’t crumble easily, there is probably too much clay to allow for good drainage.

A good soil mix will have organic material added to it for nutrients and microbial activity. While a variety of materials can be used for the organic content, it is essential that the material has been well aged. Stay away from a mix that has fresh sawdust or other wood products added for organics, unless the material has been well aged (composted). Fresh wood additives will rob the soil of nitrogen and other nutrients during the decomposition process. Fresh manures, be it cow, horse, or chicken, will have a high nitrogen content , which is good, but may also contain a high amount of salt, which may be detrimental to plants. Remember, organic matter, like a fine wine, will improve with age.

There are many other factors like pH and nutrient value that come into play for good soil. A legitimate supplier will have their soil mix tested periodically to determine its fertility. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The friendly folks at Walrath Landscape Supply have a variety of quality soil mixes that we can recommend for your individual needs, be it lawn or garden. We also stock several different organic amendments, as well as sand and fertilizers, if you choose to mix your own special soil blend.

Come on in and get that garden ready!

About the Author ()

The Dirt Peddler talks about upcoming specials, handy gardening tips, and special events and seminars on The Blossom Blog at WalrathLandscapeSupply.com.

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